Car accidents, even minor ones, can be stressful, traumatic events. Handling the incident can be made easier if everyone involved follows the laws and cooperates. Unfortunately for a number of car accident victims, some negligent drivers leave the scene of the accident. The person who remains is left to deal with the situation on their own, with no guarantee that the responsible party will ever be held accountable. If you find yourself dealing with a hit-and-run, it’s important to know the state laws that apply to your situation and what actions you should take to recover as quickly as possible.
How Common Are Hit-and-Run Collisions?
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, hit-and-run accidents are on the rise. It’s estimated that more than one hit-and-run happens every minute in the United States. The most recent data, from 2015, gives us an idea of just how common these crashes are:
- The total number of hit-and-run crashes was 737,100.
- Hit-and-runs accounted for 11.7% of crashes nationwide.
- 138,500 people were injured, which accounted for 5.9% of all traffic-related injuries.
- 1,819 fatalities occurred, accounting for 5.1% of all roadway accident deaths.
- One out of every five pedestrian fatalities is caused by a hit-and-run.
The Duty To Stop in Arkansas
In Arkansas, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident without following certain steps first. The legal requirements can be found under Arkansas Code Title 27, Subtitle 4, Chapter 53, Subchapter 1 – General Provisions.
In the event there is an accident that only results in property damage, the drivers are supposed to stop at the scene of the accident or as close as possible. If at all possible, traffic should not be obstructed. This includes accidents that happen on streets or highways, in parking lots of private businesses, and anywhere else in the state. The drivers then need to exchange personal information, including names, addresses, and vehicle registration numbers.
In the event someone is injured or killed in an accident, information also needs to be shared. Additionally, the uninjured party or witnesses need to provide reasonable assistance. This might include calling 911 or seeking medical attention. The driver is also required to remain at the scene of the accident for a reasonable amount of time in order to wait for law enforcement to arrive. A reasonable time is considered to be no less than 30 minutes.
Sometimes hit-and-runs occur when one of the drivers is not present. These typically happen in parking lots. In Arkansas, if an unattended vehicle is struck the present driver needs to locate or notify the owner of the vehicle they hit. If they cannot find them, they need to place a written notice in a conspicuous place. The note should contain their name, address, contact information, and a statement of how the accident occurred.
The Penalty for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
While none of the excuses are valid, there are a number of reasons why someone might commit a hit-and-run. The most common reasons include:
- The driver was uninsured.
- A pedestrian or bicyclist was hit.
- The driver did not have a valid driver’s license.
- The driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.
- The motorist was already in legal trouble.
Because committing a hit-and-run is a crime, the guilty party will face serious consequences if they’re located. Common consequences include fines, loss of driving privileges, and misdemeanor or felony charges.
In Arkansas, a hit-and-run is considered a Class D felony if the accident resulted in injury, death, or property damage. With a Class D felony, the guilty party could be looking at the revocation of their driver’s license, possible fines of up to $10,000, and no more than six years in prison.
What To Do if You’re the Victim of a Hit-and-Run Accident
If you find yourself dealing with a hit-and-run, there are steps you can take to help the police catch the negligent driver and help your insurance company come to a compensation decision faster. If possible, make note of the other driver’s license plate. Even a partial plate can help police identify who the person is. You’ll also want to try to get the car’s make, model, and color. If there are any witnesses around, they may be able to help with this information. Additionally, record the time and location of the accident and take photos of the scene and the damage to your vehicle.
Once the police arrive, they will conduct their own investigation. Your insurance company will use your recollection and the police report when handling your claim. Seeking help from a lawyer can help you receive full compensation, especially if the negligent driver isn’t located.
Dealing with a car accident caused by another person can seem impossible. If the police are unable to locate the person who hit you, your insurance company may offer you a lower settlement than you deserve. In order to recover quickly and receive fair compensation, it may be in your best interest to hire a lawyer from McMath Woods P.A. We work to help injury victims all over Arkansas. If you have questions about how to proceed after a hit-and-run accident, contact our firm. We can review your claim and help you take the next steps.
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